Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Little District That Could? Or Not?

We've all heard how school districts across the state are reeling from Gov. Scott Walker's idea of a budget.  We all heard an 8.4% cut to state aid.  Yet the average turned out to be -9.1%, or 8.3% higher than projected.  Worse still, the median (a more accurate figure given the size and spread of the dataset) slashing was 10.13%, a 20% greater reduction than projected.

Then there was Kaukauna, the little school district that could.  On June 30th (actually from a late April presentation), the district released a budget projection that declared to the entire state that Walker's budget was so awesome that they actually would have a surplus!  They vowed to REDUCE class sizes, and hire new teachers.  Wow!  Plan Walker Works!  Right????

It's All-Star time in the world of Major League Baseball...what a fitting time to look at Gov, Walker's batting average.  If one were to count Kaukauna as the singular success among 424 school districts, that would translate into a batting average of 0.002.  Or a solitary base hit in a season's worth of at-bats (424).  That's not even Pee Wee League, folks.

"In the Kaukauna schools, the world is not only not falling apart -- it's getting better."--Byron York, The Examiner's chief political correspondent

And then, on Friday July 1, the DPI general aid estimates were released, and Kaukuna's delusions of grandeur appear to have been squashed like the other 423 school districts.
• $1,905,609 is the projected loss in the state revenue limit formula
funding from the proposed state budget ($527 per pupil decrease)  
---Kaukauna budget presentation 
Suddenly 2,757,698 is the ACTUAL estimated reduction in general aid based on DPI's July 1st data

Which means an additional $852,089 reduction.
Ruh, Roh, Shaggy!
Maybe the cheap tinting has started to flake off of those rose-colored glasses of yours.
It would seem that the boasted $1.5M in surplus was quickly reduced to $650K.

One also has to consider how Kaukauna arrived at it's wonderful position.  After all, they were using the identical set of tools that Walker so graciously provided to all the other school districts.  What did they do OTHER than require employees to pay 5.8% of their retirement and 12.8% of health insurance premiums?   Well...if you look at their budget document, they did a number of things that are responsible for $1.5M in savings.  Hmmm....that's exactly what they said they had as a surplus!

• Buildings and Grounds Cost savings – $275,445 (reduce maintenance budget 50%, reduce overtime 60%, eliminate Custodial Supervisor position, eliminate summer maintenance workers)
• Information Technology Cost Savings –  $248,064 (45% budget cut, reduce staff)
• Other District Operations Cost Savings –  $127,500 (payroll processing changes, reduce contracted services, cut $100K post-retirement benefit payment)
• Co-curricular Activities Cost Savings – $43,529 (eliminate some clubs, reduce budgets, reduce travel)
• Student Transportation Cost Savings –  $180,000 (change to 2-mile limit for busing)
• Administrative Assistants Cost Savings – $95,121  cut one FTE, reduced hours for others)
• Modified 4K Program Cost Savings –  $306,889 (All day, every other day, every other Friday program for 2011-12)  4 year olds ALL DAY?  Right!  That'll work!
• Close 1 Elementary School Cost Savings –  $253,066

They've cut and slashed where other have not ventured...NOW where are they going to come up with the unanticipated $850K hit?

All that and a tax increase too!
The best part about Kaukauna's "success" is that they are planning on a tax INCREASE!
That's right...a $400K increase to the tax levy which translates to a 22% increase in the mill rate ($0.20, or $40 on a $200K home...but all that is based on a 0% growth in equalized value)

Something to write home about?  We don't think so.  A victory?  Not a chance.
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